Countryside of Life; it’s Turkey Time

A Royal Palm Turkey Tom will grow up to 16 to 22 pounds and the hens 10 to 12 pounds. This heritage breed is on the endangered livestock list. Courtesy photo
A Royal Palm Turkey Tom will grow up to 16 to 22 pounds and the hens 10 to 12 pounds. This heritage breed is on the endangered livestock list. Courtesy photo

When I was a child my mom always raised chickens and was an avid gardener. Besides helping make dad’s paycheck stretch, she also wanted us kids to know where our food came from. The eggs, meat, and produce that came from her efforts did just that.

One year we added a pair of white turkeys to the mix. (Right now is the time to order your turkeys online.) We named the young turkeys Romeo and Juliet as they were to be Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner that year. The turkey chicks followed us around everywhere and were gaining weight with great speed in comparison to the baby chicks we raised. Soon they waddled after us at a walk and did not run after us anymore. The hen Juliet even laid a clutch of eggs and sat on them in a hole she dug in the dirt.

Mom and dad were surprised by that because from what they knew this breed of turkey did not have the ability to reproduce. As Thanksgiving came around, we kids did not want our friend turkey for dinner but mom and dad insisted because this breed of turkey could not continue to live.

Young Royal Palm turkeys are like the ones that ran the Turkey Race at the fair. Courtesy photo
Young Royal Palm turkeys are like the ones that ran the Turkey Race at the fair. Courtesy photo

Now I understand about genetically cloned turkeys that are commercially raised like the ones we raised as a kid. They grow quickly and keep growing until their body cannot handle the weight. They die from this eventually and they also do not reproduce naturally.  I was at a fair a few years ago and it was quite the site, huge turkeys being moved back and forth from the show area in wheelbarrows and wagons.

It was at that same fair as part of the entertainment where we watched the Turkey Races. There was a maze and a remote-control control monster truck that they followed. There were about six Royal Palm Turkeys, a heritage breed, fenced in behind a gate at the beginning of the maze run. Turkey feed was put in the truck bed positioned to run the maze.

One, two, three – they were off. I never laughed so hard as it was an amazing site to see those large turkeys, white with dark edging on their feathers, chasing that remote-control truck with great zeal. Some figured it out and cheated; jumping the maze fence and pounced on that truck with such fury it looked like they meant to kill it.

Royal Palm Turkey eggs take 28 days to hatch. Courtesy photo
Royal Palm Turkey eggs take 28 days to hatch. Courtesy photo

The race was promptly stopped and started again hopping to retrain the feisty bird to run the race right. Each time they jumped the maze fence out of order it brought greater laughter from the crowd. After each start they got better and better at getting that truck. The turkey wranglers said that they lost more trucks that way.  Those Royal Palm Heritage Turkeys were smart.

That day I saw the stark contrast between the commercial type and the heritage breed of Turkey. Some who grew such a large turkey breast so fast that they needed assistance to get to the area the others were spry and able to live, love and reproduce on their own. So I believe it comes down to personal choice and to what you want to use your turkeys for. Then choose the breed to raise.

Wild Turkey hen and poult. Turkeys in the wild were on the decline.  A major repopulation effort has been successful in re-colonizing a wild population in the U.S. According to the NWTF there are more than 7 million wild turkeys. Wild turkeys can be purchased from some hatcheries. Courtesy photo
Wild Turkey hen and poult. Turkeys in the wild were on the decline.  A major repopulation effort has been successful in re-colonizing a wild population in the U.S. According to the NWTF there are more than 7 million wild turkeys. Wild turkeys can be purchased from some hatcheries. Courtesy photo

Interesting turkey facts:

  • A male adult turkey is called a Tom or Gobbler.
  • A female adult turkey is called a hen.
  • A young turkey female is call a Jenny and a male a Jake.
  • A baby turkey is called a chick or poult.
  • Never touch young turkeys after being in contact with chickens. There are diseases that can be passed from chickens to young turkeys – although fully grown turkeys are OK.
  • It takes about 28 days for turkey eggs to hatch. Always wash your hands (and never touch your face) right before touching the turkey eggs. The oils from your skin can permeate the eggshell and contaminate the turkey inside.
  • You can incubate turkey eggs but you must follow special directions go to www.wikihow.com/Hatch-Turkey-Eggs-in-an-Incubator to learn how. Turkey eggs for hatching are sold online.
  • The hatching process takes between five and 10 hours.
  • A group of wild turkeys is called a flock and a group of domestic turkeys is commonly called a rafter.
  • The red part on top of the turkey’s beak is called the snoods and when a Tom turkey struts his stuff for the ladies it grows bright due to an engorgement of blood. The red part under the chin is called the waddle.
  • Ben Franklin thought the national bird should have been the turkey as he felt it was truly a noble bird.
  • The Aztec’s were the first to keep domestic turkeys in cages here in the Americas. It is thought that they passed that tradition on to other tribes and that the Native Americas in the east of North America turned them loose in the forest. When the first Europeans arrived they were plentiful and a main food supply. It is interesting to note that there is evidence to show that before coming to the area that is now Mexico City the Aztecs lived in the north which may have been in the four corner’s area of the U.S.

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